View Full Version : Wimped out on commuting in the dark

10-30-2006, 02:34 PM
This afternoon I had to make a decision whether I was going to leave work at 5 pm and ride home in the dark, or change my work schedule so I could leave at 4 and ride home in the daylight. I started thinking about how bad the traffic is on the narrow DC streets I commute on, and how little attention people pay to bikes even when they can see them in the daytime, and Silver's accident, and I got a little freaked out at the prospect of riding in the dark. So I opted for the 4 pm leaving time. (What this means is that I will have to work every day, instead of having every other Friday off. I'll really miss my Fridays off, but I don't do much productive with them in the winter anyway.)

I'm feeling a bit wimpy, but I think it's just too risky to trust DC drivers.

10-30-2006, 02:37 PM
Maybe you're being smart rather than wimpy. I did one dark commute last week and decided it's not my favorite thing. Maybe I'll do 1-2 commutes per week when the weather is too nice to pass up, but I'm just not real excited about dark commutes.

added 10/31/06:

I don't worry too much about being seen. Blinking lights are hard to miss in the dark (the darker the better). I worry more about not seeing the road well enough. It is dark on the roads I ride, and even with a 10 watt headlight and second light, the road is just not that visible. Potholes and tree limbs are often invisible until I'm within 6-10 feet. The other hazard I discovered was unlit trailers. A truck passed me pulling a trailer. I saw the truck fine but just as it passed I glanced left and could barely discern that it was pulling a trailer (the trailer probably had tail lights but nothing visible from the side). If I'd decided to move left to avoid a pothole at that moment and not seen the trailer, it would have been bad. So, maybe it's my eyes or maybe I need a really high powered light mounted on my helmet. But I'm just not that comfortable riding in the dark.

10-30-2006, 03:57 PM
I did my first commute home in the dark today (Long Island, NY), having just installed front and rear lights yesterday. I thought it felt kinda cool, but then I also had the general sense that, if anything, I was *more* seen than usual due to the lighting system. Cars seemed to give me a wider berth, but then what's one ride? Time will tell...

And, we're all different, some people don't see as well at night and so on (that goes for the cars as well as us). And, night cycling is indeed considered to be the most dangerous statistically speaking. So, I think that rule #1 is feeling comfortable and relaxed in what works best for you! Anxiety and nerves cause accidents. Just do it when you can! :-)

10-30-2006, 05:23 PM
What is that saying?
"Discretion is the better part of valor."

During a recent dark a.m. commute, I nearly got taken out twice by cars coming out of side streets - within the span of about 1/4 mile. Just today - in twilight, not even dark - a school bus came out in front of my riding partner (I wasn't with him at the time) and forced him to grab a handful of brakes and make a darting swerve into the street from which the bus had just come.

Yeah...don't think of it as wimp. Think of it as smart. If and when you're ready to take it on, the roads will be there waiting for you. In the meantime, flexible schedules work, too. Don't sweat it.

10-31-2006, 02:39 AM
What is that saying?
"Discretion is the better part of valor."


"(S)he who chickens today lives to cluck another day."

10-31-2006, 05:12 AM
I work the midnight shift. Thankfully I have a short commute. Well lit, low traffic.

10-31-2006, 05:27 AM
Actually, I should have said I wimped out on commuting in the dark in the evening, because I enjoyed riding in the morning in the dark (before the time changed). There's much less traffic then, and people aren't as frantic as they are in the evening when they're trying to get home. The good part about leaving early is there's a lot less traffic on the road at 4:30 than there is at 5:30, so not only is it daylight but the congestion is not nearly so bad. Not sure I feel "smart" about choosing to ride in the daylight, but I sure feel safer.

10-31-2006, 05:34 AM
Better to be safe.

My mom can't see in the dark, her eyesight is going. Sometimes she does have to drive in the dark, even though she truly tries to avoid it.

I worry for bicyclists and pedestrians then. (and dogs and bears and deer and cattle and any other critters that might be wandering in the hills near her road)

10-31-2006, 06:04 AM
I wish I had wimped out on commuting yesterday. I had to ride my road bike instead of my regular commuter, because my mixte has the bottom bracket out for replacement, and I should have thought about super skinny tires + road debris + low light conditions. As I was turning onto my street I hit a small stick in the street, leftover from my neighbor's lawn raking, and I nearly went over -- caught myself with my foot just in time.

The mixte has fatter tires (still road tires, but I think they're 32s) and I don't even worry about small objects in the road. I think I will be walking to work until that bottom bracket is replaced. Should be today, I hope.

10-31-2006, 07:07 AM
If you rode, you weren't a wimp. Period.

10-31-2006, 09:57 AM
KnottedYet "My mom can't see in the dark, her eyesight is going. Sometimes she does have to drive in the dark, even though she truly tries to avoid it."

That was part of the reason my Mom moved to a smaller place in town.

I hate this season, the fall weather is great, right now it's mostly clear but crisp.

The mornings are light and I see cyclists in the morning and on my afternoon walk and think "oh, I should ride".

Then I leave work, early aroung 5:30 or 5:00 and it's already dark :eek: Oh, that's why.

My ride home includes a bike/ped bridge that's a little dark and deserted, that's my excuse so far. But I did reach my goal to start comuting earlier this year and keep going later. I expect that trend to continue and to find ways to do it year round. Right now that means on days off and or weekends getting a ride or errands in during the day.

11-01-2006, 09:12 AM

"(S)he who chickens today lives to cluck another day."


Better safe than sorry.

Didn't they say in driving class (22 years ago ...) that dusk has worse visibility than night? Sense != wimp. No matter what those eXtreME sPorTs people will try to tell you.

11-01-2006, 11:53 PM
From now on until March or so I'll be commuting mostly in the dark, though once the snow comes it won't really be that dark.

I don't like reflective vests, and have settled for:

on my bike: blinking white (almost blue - the yellow ones are a lot harder to see) 4 LED light in front, blinking red standard 3 LED in back - both quite broad and fairly visible from the side

on my helmet: a tiny steady-beam 1 LED light in front on my helmet, ditto blinking red on the back of my helmet... back-up in case the one on the bike gets obscured by mud or my jacket

Plus a broad reflective band on each ankle, to be visible from the side in crossings, and one on my left wrist to be extra visible when signalling a left turn.

I feel fairly visible, but I don't have much to see the road with, if the road itself is poorly lit.

11-02-2006, 07:33 AM
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can continue at least until Christmas. I've slowed way down (takes me an extra 15 minutes to get home) and assumed that, even with tons of blinkies, I'm "Sue, the invisible girl" to everyone on the road.

Riding in the winter is a totally different experience, isn't it? When I get home, I feel victorious rather than the usual summer "bonhomie."

11-02-2006, 08:57 AM
Never feel you wimped out when you make a cautious decision based on a well-known risk factor, such as; not enough sleep, haven't eaten breakfast/lunch, its raining/snowing/icey outside, its dark...

Riding in the dark is a risk factor that increases the possibility of a crash - whether with someone else, or just of your own making. If you don't feel comfortable, don't do it.

Yes, it is a "w" word... but not 'wimp' - its 'wise'


11-03-2006, 07:21 AM
Righto... I soemtimes have to remind myself "and if you crash and break your face, how many days will you miss? So maybe skipping this one isn't so bad..."

run it, ride it
11-05-2006, 10:22 AM
I recently had laser eye surgery. When I drive at night there are halos on every light I see which compromises my depth perception. I can't pick out the important lights as quickly as I used to. Still, I always notice flashing bicycle lights.

So you're out driving on the highway in pitch darkness with hi-beams on and another car appears in the other direction. Is it not common courtesy to turn off your brights when they turn theirs off? I kill mine when theirs have made it difficult for me to judge where the road is.

I thought it was bad when driving! Only one in thirty vehicles turns down their brights at all when I'm on my bicycle. I absolutely could not SEE commuting in the dark just because of that (well, and the terrifying transport trucks whose drivers weren't expecting bicycles on a country road in the middle of nowhere).

Even with the brightest lights I could find on my bicycle I have people tell me "I almost ran into you. I could barely see you."

Safety first, kids!

11-05-2006, 11:11 AM
I'll ride in the dark or in the rain but not in both.

I miss my commuter days... even though I had to ride across the Ballard Bridge which is VERY bike un-friendly in the dark....

11-05-2006, 12:34 PM
I commuted in real dark, as opposed to just dusk, for the first time on Friday. And I liked it! I do wish I'd had a better light with me -- my bike was in the shop all week and I picked it up that morning, but I forgot to bring a light so I had to use the extra one I keep in my desk. It's fine but it doesn't illuminate the road at all, and the streets are still a mess from last week's storm. So it wasn't ideal.

But it was still pretty good. In some ways I feel more visible in the dark than at dusk, because my lights show up better. There was not much traffic. And I felt so much safer leaving my office on a bike at night than I do on foot. They've redone our doorways so I can just take my bike out the front of the building at the main entrance now, which dumps me onto a well-lit sidewalk that then goes straight onto the street I use to ride to home. In the past, that front door was locked at night, and in order to exit that way you had to unlock a very difficult deadbolt, which was hard to do while balancing a bicycle. So I had to exit into a dark alley ... which pretty much meant that I drove the car any time I had to work late.

Mostly I commute on foot, but I am really happy to have another way to get to work in the winter. Because my neighborhood is fine for riding through after dark, but not so much for walking.